Daily news summary News

02-11-2009

Czech Senators add to Lisbon treaty complaint

Czech senators who lodged a complaint against the EU’s reforming Lisbon treaty have made a further submission to the Czech Republic’s highest court aimed at supplementing their case. An official at the Czech Constitutional Court said on Monday that the mostly right-leaning senators had lodged their new material on Friday. The court is due to meet on Tuesday over their complaint about whether the treaty is in conflict with Czech law. A decision is looking likely. Senators added to their original submission when the court sat last Tuesday with court chairman Pavel Rychetský complaining then that the move bordered on obstruction.

The court verdict is the last barrier standing in the way of Czech ratification of the Lisbon treaty after President Václav Klaus was granted an exemption from part of the treaty, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, at a meeting of EU leaders at the end of last week. President Klaus said he wanted guarantees that Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia at the end of World War Two could not use it to reclaim their property.

Trade union association says could launch legal challenge to presidential exemption

The biggest grouping of Czech trades unions has warned that it could lodge its own complaint at the Czech Constitutional Court against the Czech exemption from the Lisbon treaty’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Czech and Moravian Confederation of Trades Unions says the exemption affects a whole raft of labour and social rights and leaves Czechs second class citizens in Europe. Confederation chairman Milan Štěch told Czech Radio on Monday that it is mulling lodging its own complaint at the court.

Former justice minister selected as new dean of troubled law faculty

The academic senate of the Plzeň law faculty elected former justice minister Jiří Pospíšil as the new dean of the troubled faculty on Monday evening. The move helps stave off the threat of emergency management and closure. Mr. Pospíšil won 11 votes from the 18-strong senate, one more than needed to be elected.

The Plzeň law faculty is currently the focus of a highly-publicised scandal involving plagiarism, fast-track diplomas, and suspected corruption. A former student at the faculty, Mr. Pospíšil was brought in five weeks ago to try and sort out the shambles. The academic senate faced a choice between Mr. Pospíšil and Prague lawyer Karol Hrádela. Mr. Hrádela argued that an outsider with no connections to the faculty should get the job. Former Jaroslav Zachariáš stepped down during the scandal. Many of those receiving fast-track diplomat have been Czech politicians with prominent Civic Democrat Marek Benda the latest to come to the attention of local media.

Three in tender for massive nuclear contract: report

Only three companies have made bids to build two new nuclear reactors at power company ČEZ’s existing Temelín facility with the option of a further three at other sites, according to the news server of the Czech daily Lidové noviny. The paper listed the three as US-based Westinghouse, France’s Areva and Russian state-controlled firm Atomstrojexport. Expectations had been that around a dozen companies would put in tenders for what the Czech media has described as the contract of the century which is worth an estimated 500 billion crowns or around 28 billion US dollars.

The contract has already stirred up a lot of lobbying and interest. Some Czech politicians have warned that handing such a big contract to a Russian firm would increase Czech dependency on Moscow. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, Martin Barták, said on Sunday that the government could exert enormous influence over who wins the tender. Around two-thirds of ČEZ shares are state-owned.

Government widens scope of non-profit organisations

The Czech government backed changes to the current 12-year-old law on charities and foundations on Monday. The changes tabled by Minister for Human Rights and Minorities, Michael Kocáb, allow the non-profit organisations to expand the scope of their activities so that they better cope with the ongoing economic crisis. It also gives them better access to funding which should flow from the beginning of the financial year. The amendment also allows them to wind up their activities with fewer complications. Charities and foundations mushroomed after the collapse of Communism but many disappeared when stricter rules were brought in demanding they had a minimum half million crowns to start up.

Czech PM calls for consensus on EU Commissioner

Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer said on Monday that a Czech EU Commissioner should be selected within the next week. He warned political parties that if they could not come to agreement on a candidate then the government would have to select one itself. This could mean going outside the list of names that the political parties have come up with so far, he added. Political parties have so far put forward five candidates. The Civic Democrats have suggested former European affairs minister Alexandr Vondra. The Social Democrats want current EU Commissioner Vladimír Špidla to stay on in the job. The Greens have put forward former Czech presidential candidate Jan Švejnar, the Communists European Parliament member and former astronaut, Vladimír Remek and the Christian Democrats former minister Pavel Svoboda.

State budget deficit climbs to 138.1 billion crowns

The Czech state deficit widened to 138.1 billion crowns by the end of October, the Ministry of Finance announced on Monday. This represents a 50.8 billion crown deepening of the deficit compared with the end of September. The Czech government initially planned for the budget deficit for the whole of 2009 to total 38.3 billion. But the economic crisis has had a far bigger impact than expected, cutting the state’s direct and indirect tax revenues and increasing the amounts it must pay out in unemployment and other benefits.

October sets record for road deaths

October was the worst month for fatal road accidents so far this year, according to preliminary police figures. Ninety-seven people died in road accidents but police warn that the figure could be higher. A year ago the October death toll was 77 but in 2007 it was 96. Up till now, July had the record as the worst month with 81 deaths. So far this year, around 700 people have died on Czech roads but monthly figures have mostly showed a decline compared with a year earlier.

Karel Gott made honorary citizen of Plzeň

Ageless Czech pop star Karel Gott was made an honorary citizen of his home city, Plzeň, on Monday. The city’s highest tribute is recognition for the fact that Karel Gott is the best known living citizen from the city, a councillor said. The award for the 70-year-old international singing star comes less than a week after Karel Gott was recognised by President Václav Klaus for his positive contribution to the Czech Republic abroad at the annual awards ceremony marking Czech national day.

Weather

Rainy conditions are expected through to Wednesday. Daytime temperatures should rise to a maximum 6 degrees Celsius.

02-11-2009